Thursday, January 19, 2017

Let's Talk About Time

In my little art education world, we've been discussing the issue of time a lot lately.  The issue of disparity and being rushed and all of that.  I do honestly believe elementary art teachers are some of the hardest working teachers as far as supplies and materials, managing "stuff" and planning.  I see seven classes every day (that's seven different grade levels): three in the morning back to back, then lunch/plan and four in the afternoon back to back EXCEPT on the third day of our rotation, when I teach two classes at my home school, then pack up, get in my van and drive ten miles (!) to another school in my district and teach two back to back classes there.  I finish there five minutes (or less) before my daily contract time ends. And a side note to say that this year's schedule is not great--my day starts with second grade, then fifth, then fourth, then lunch/plan, followed by kindergarten, then third grade, then first grade (in my building, or second grade if I'm at the other school), and I finish with sixth grade (or a second class of second grade at the other school).  Sixth grade at the end of the day is NOT FUN.  Especially right after first grade.  
There's another elementary art teacher in my district who sees TEN classes in one day.  At two schools.  Two 40 minute classes and EIGHT 30 minute classes.  Mercy.  I can't even. . . 
All of this being said because sometimes I worry that students aren't getting enough individual art experiences.  In the reality of time, there's a LOT of sharing of paint and other materials.  I wondered if it was making a big difference in the work and experience of my students. So earlier this week I decided to set up individual tempera paint for my kindergarten (no sharing for color mixing):

These are little coated paper squares that the cafeteria
used to use to give out butter.  No more butter allowed, so
they passed them on to me.


I was able to do this because I have plan time right before kindergarten.  Now, I usually have them paint with something like this:

Totally an old picture that was from something else,
but you get the idea.
So with the individual paint, my kindergarteners painted their alphabet vases:



And painted:


And painted some more:


The next day I did it the regular way (sharing paint with a partner or the whole table/four students), and I have to say, there really wasn't a big difference.  Here's a side-by-side comparison of students from different classes who are very similar in their work habits and abilities:

Individual paint on the left, shared paint on the right.


I guess I learned something from this, and that's maybe I've overthinking it???? Maybe I don't need to run myself ragged for students to have extra individualized materials??? I'm still gonna think on it, and as teachers I think we're always looking for ways to improve.
I've also had lots of "I didn't learn this in college" moments lately. Mostly related to managing all the stuff and supplies of art teacher land. Maybe 17 years of experience is when the real learning begins, what do you think???

Friday, January 13, 2017

Two, Two, Two Projects At Once

There are times where the universe sets up multi-tasking for teachers.  Take today, for example: it's Friday the 13th, we're about to get hammered by a "significant" ice storm, AND it's a full moon.  These are the days that some teachers wonder 'would life in an office be so bad? How would I decorate a cubicle?' But here we are.
In art teacher land, sometimes I have student multi task by working on two projects at once.  Pretty seamlessly, really.  It goes back to the early finishers: rather than let them "free draw" or "make something out of the scrap box" (which I do do many times), sometimes it works out to have two things going.  
Right now, second graders are working on their Today I Feel Silly portraits that you can read all about here.  We'd drawn them and traced them with black glue (I've switched to buying the premixed black glue from Nasco, as I had problems with the glue + ink or paint really drying out in the bottles) and today we were painting them with tempera cakes, which really doesn't take 40 minutes:



As students finished painting, they put their papers on the back table and got 9 x 12 papers to draw buildings that we will later use for a warm/cool cityscape painting.  The directions were to draw any kind of building you'd see in a city and then trace your pencil with dark colored crayon.




The multi-tasking-ness of it worked really well with my second graders, everyone had a job to do and the ability to do it.
Now if only we could get some zen calmness around this school, it sounds like a bit like a wild rave from my college days around here today!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hoarding Rears It's Head

I've been on this clean-out-kick lately, both at home and at school.  Which is HUGE for me as my hoarder tendencies can get out of control.  I really only say two words when people from the community bring donations: "THANK YOU!" which leads to some interesting collections (like about 40 paper rotary blades, but no handles. . . )
I'd had this really heavy bag of magazines in the back of my van since before Christmas that I was bringing for collages, only I kept forgetting they were back there.  This morning I put them in the front seat before I left home, so they FINALLY got dragged into school.  And then I saw the state of my collage magazines:


My student teacher from last year built me this awesome, super-sturdy rack for holding magazines (thank you, Stefan!), but the state of the situation was just sorry:



I got to work, cleaning out and sorting, and then it happened: I saw all the HGTV and Organic Living magazines I'd brought from home, and I just couldn't part with them!


So I bagged those up to go back home, and completed the task at hand.  BIG SIGH, hoarding tendencies gain a small win.

Thank you, community member for Consumer Reports,
it's never to early to be informed consumers!
Now, you'd think I have some big ideas for collages coming up, but nope, just an organization itch I'm scratching!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Some Simple Symmetry

Like many of you (I'm sure) I cover symmetry every year with multiple classes/grade levels.  For my third graders, we look at Stonehenge and talk about radial symmetry and do a project.  (Who can forget this horribleness?) I've done symmetrical name designs before and third graders really struggle with block lettering, and so it was really a hassle.  I've done simple designs in the past where students fold square paper into fourths and draw three lines and one shape (which is very successful), but I was a little tired of it.  This year we did our initials, (no block/bubble lettering) and I love them:




We finished these up in December, and I was REALLY needing some winter break (ie I didn't take any "in process" photos because I didn't even think of it).  Here's what we did: students started with a 9 x 9 square piece of paper, and folded it in half, unfolded, folded in half the other direction, unfolded, folded diagonally, unfolded, then diagonal the other direction.  Finally, we folded it all up to a triangle (using the lines we'd made) and drew our initials (just first and last), making sure to go from the bottom to the top of the paper in pencil.  I checked them (making sure their letters were big enough) and then showed them how to fold that to the inside and rub a marker on the back to transfer the graphite.  Done correctly, the letters morph together making a whole new shape:



Once all the pencil has been transferred, all pencil lines are traced with permanent black marker.  Finally, neon crayons were used to color a symmetrical design.  I am very happy with how these turned out, and they're brightening our hall:

You'll note this is the same bulletin board from back-to-school.
I say, "Make something that works the whole year!"
You're welcome.

I love how an R made an accidental maple leaf!
One more thing: I did have students glue their finished designs to a 12 x 12 piece of construction paper when they were all done to dress them up a bit (kind of explains the crooked gluing in the above photo). 
Only thing left to do is to post a sign of our lesson objectives asking viewers to try to figure out the students' initials.  Then sit back and wait for the questions that will come from it.
Happy art teaching!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Being Purposeful

Welcome to 2017, friends! Let that sink in: twenty seventeen . . . what the what???? I'm OLD and that date seems so future-ish. But we're here now, time to make the most of it.  
Today I'm going to share a lesson I've written about before, but it's not a lesson I do every year with my kindergarten artists.  Maybe I really should, or something similar.  See, sometimes (lots of times, if I'm honest) I get this great idea/wild hair and jump right in without thinking about the basics and then I get frustrated that kids aren't right there with me when it's really my fault/problem.  I adore this lesson because it IS so basic.  It teaches rainbow order and forces me to teach appropriate painting and paint brush basics (which 5 to 7 year olds NEED).  We paint 9 x 12 papers in rainbow order with tempera paint:


For some reason the violet is really showing as blue,
and I wanted to show how sometimes we end up with some
leftover white space (and that's okay).

Sometimes we fill that white space completely with
violet (also okay).


After the paintings are dry we cut them up:





I'd like to once again thank blogger for the new-no-way-to-turn-photos-making-people-look-at-things-with-their-heads-cocked-sideways-funness.  

The expectation is that students cut through all of their rainbow colors every time using a new/different line and lay it out like a puzzle before gluing.  This is hard for kindergarten, but stretches them just enough without frustrating them.
I'm trying to be more purposeful in everything I do (at work and at home) and think about what I'm really wanting to accomplish.  I want independent thinkers who have SKILLS, and basic how-to-hold/how-to-rinse a paintbrush are some skills I see kids lacking.  Also bonus, no two look alike when we're done.
Happy New Year, readers! May your days be blissful and your nights be restful (and your summer be long! Let's hold on to that thought during these dreary winter months!).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Leveling the Art Playing Field with Cubism

I always adore projects that stretch my "high performers" while provided opportunity for my struggling artists to feel some real achievement.  This is one of those lessons.  We've been talking about Pablo Picasso and Cubism, and warmed up with our fun Picasso Dogz lesson, so everyone really had a handle on the cubist style.  (We'd also watched this clip several times).  I started by giving each student a 6" x 9" piece of paper and had them draw a Cubist face with pencil.  Students had to show it to me and get approval before the next step (because we all know that sometimes they draw so very small).  After their drawings were approved, they flipped them over and covered the back with a layer of oil pastel:


Once the oil pastel was on nice and thick, I gave each student an 18" x 24" piece of white drawing paper with their name already written on a corner in Sharpie (because at one stage later many of them of them look alike) and had them place their Picasso face on the paper: pencil side up, oil pastel side down.  Now the magic happens! Students traced their drawing, leaving an exact copy on their paper in oil pastel.  Fifth graders LOVE THIS.



When they've traced their own, they look around the classroom at other faces they like and borrow from them (or me, but they can only use one of mine).  They end up with three faces total (like Picasso's "Three Musicians").

In process, but this one shows that sometimes, if a face
has been used multiple times another layer of oil pastel
must be added for the transfer to be successful.
When all three faces have been transferred, students use simple shapes to make bodies for their people and put them in a fun situation (the movies, shopping, sports . . . )



Finally, color is added with marker, crayon and/or colored pencil:



We've still got a tiny bit of touch up to do after Winter Break, but here's where we are now:

Eating tacos!

I think they're at the mall?
But I love the faces on this one.

Dabbing with a Santa hat.

This belongs to a student that I'd like to
slow down a bit, and work on coloring completely,
but she did break up her background in an
interesting way.

Love the soccer players!
She was gone the last art class,
or she would be done.

Can't wait to see this one finished!
It's been a great lesson for me for several years, and it really does level our art playing field!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dear Good or Even Just Decent Sub

Dear Art Room Substitute,
Thank you for following the plans I left.  Thank you for not allowing children to be in charge and say things like "she always lets us get in the painting cabinet by ourselves" or "exploding markers are great! Watch what I can do with this marker--this part comes out and this part comes off. . . "
Even though art may not be your "thing," I see that you've done your best to keep decorum and follow basic classroom rules.  Thank you for keeping students on track and focused on the task at hand.
Thank you for making students be responsible for the messes they make and clean up after themselves.  As you understand, custodians are not personal maids, they have bigger jobs to do than clean up after each child individually.
Thank you for treating students respectfully and using a normal tone voice.
Thank you for understanding that the month of December is rough on teachers throughout the building as the excitement of Santa is too much for some children to bear.  Thank you for keeping the rules and procedures in place to keep things running smoothly.
You are worth your weight in gold, and art teachers everywhere thank you! I am so sorry I didn't express my gratitude earlier, I didn't truly understand your value until now.
Sincerely,
An art teacher who saw too much mayhem this morning
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